Homage to Catalonia
When my publicist asked if I fancied doing an event in Northern Spain, of course I agreed. What an opportunity! Lee Pennington of the holiday company Seven Day Wonder runs a Booklovers' week every year in Catalonia, near Banyoles - check out www.7daywonder.com for details. Passionate readers come together in a beautiful house in the hills to discuss books, eat the wonderful food he cooks, and drink wine. How could I resist?
As the date approached, however, I became less enthusiastic. The summer had been frantically busy. I'd spent hours on trains and too many nights in strange hotels. I'd be in Orkney, with the Macauley Institute group at the beginning of the week and have just one night at home before heading off to Spain. I'd done lots of writing in Oxford in the run-up to St Hilda's (another wonderful conference, this year) but still I was desperate for more time to complete the first draft of my new book.
In the end I was delighted I'd agreed to join the group for their final few days. There was a friendliness and a sense of belonging, a relaxation that came of sunshine, a tolerance of other readers' views and the fact that the experience was entirely hassle-free. Lee had invited 4 authors to join them throughout the week; I followed Clare Dudman, Adam Nevill and Charles Lambert; Charles and his partner were still there when I arrived and remained joyous companions over my two days. He writes beautifully and I recommend ANY HUMAN FACE, his latest novel and the subject of the group's discussion.
And this, of course, was what happened throughout the week. We recommended our favourite reads, shared our enthusiasms over dinner, sitting by the pool on the free afternoons, and walking in the hills. Lee runs the week as if he's hosting a country house party for friends, anxious that everyone feels comfortable and has a good time. And we all did.
Thankyou to Michael Barker for the photographs!